Hollis Brookline beats Timberlane for volleyball title

NASHUA – Although it wasn’t a perfect run, it was a run that ended in a championship as the Hollis Brookline Cavaliers beat the Timberlane Owls 3-1 to win the NHIAA Division I boys volleyball championship Saturday.

The head coach of the Cavilers, Ed Leonard, knew from the start of the year that a title was the team’s No. 1 priority.

"We decided at the beginning of the season that we would make it a team goal to make the (title) run," Leonard said. "We set the goal to make the semis last year. We did but got knocked out. We decided to change it up and go for the title, and that’s exactly what we did."

The win marks the tail end of a strong season for the third-seeded Cavaliers. They finished the regular season with a 15-3 record, mowing through opponents like John Stark and Goffstown and winning 3-0 both times – never losing a single set in the process.

The loss for the Owls is a bitter one to swallow for the top-ranked team in the division. The Owls came into the playoffs with a 14-2 record. Unlike Hollis Brookline, Timberlane didn’t win each match on the way to the finals in convincing fashion. The team beat eighth-seeded Londonderry and fourth-seeded Windham, with each game ending in a 3-2 result.

The championship match started off strong for the Cavs, winning the first set (25-16) and second set (25-15) convincingly.

The Cavs’ fast pace and suffocating attack was led by the three-pronged
onslaught of Nick Wood (17 kills, two aces), Tucker McIllwrath (12 kills, one assist) and Bret Belden (nine kills, three aces and one assist).

The third set (25-18) was won by the Owls only after they stopped a potential comeback by the Cavs late in the set. Samuel Hovan (16 kills) and Ryan Doherty (11 kills) carried the team for the whole match, both offensively and defensively. The Owls seemed to struggle if either or both players were not on the court, and it proved costly when they gained a lead.

The fourth and final set was a nail-
biter, as the lead for both teams never went above one point. A late surge of energy and a few 50-50 calls that went the Cavs’ way saw the team come out on top, winning the final set 25-23.

Head coach for the Owls John Dube was proud of his team despite the loss and didn’t think they would do as well as they had.

"Every single one of these kids gave it their all today," Dube said. "If you asked me at the beginning of the season where I thought we would be, it wasn’t here. It’s their credit that they’re a hardworking bunch and they never, ever quit."